Shit Pit’s Spring Opening Welcomes New Stand-Up Comedians

The requirements for Oberlin’s stand-up open mic are simple: Keep it to five minutes and use your best judgment when it comes to offensive jokes. The underground stand-up collective was started by Sophie Zucker, OC ’15, and Maya Sharma, also OC ’15, during their fourth year at Oberlin. Today, Zucker’s sister Clare Zucker, who is a College second-year, and College second-year Juli Freedman run the collective. Shit Pit held their first open mic of the semester this past Saturday. 

When Sophie Zucker and Maya Sharma started Shit Pit, they were inspired by a similar underground comedy and variety show in Chicago called Shithole. Like Shithole, Shit Pit takes place in different venues and locations depending on who can host and it also encourages comedians to come and workshop their material with other people either involved in or interested in comedy. 

“[Sophie and Maya] contacted the Shithole and asked if they could create a similar group on campus, and they said ‘yes,’” Zucker explained. “It used to happen more regularly, and it used to be more of a workshop-type thing.” 

Zucker had no idea that her sister had started Shit Pit when she first got involved, though. She found out about the collective through her improv troupe, the Sunshine Scouts. 

“I asked if [my sister] had heard of the group and she was like, ‘Um, yeah,’” Zucker laughed. 

Zucker, who normally uses stories from her own life in her stand-up, found hosting on Saturday to be a different and more difficult experience than performing. 

“You have to win the audience over and you’re doing more one-liners and jokes than a whole thing,” she said, adding that the audience was supportive as usual. “You always get some laughs, which is nice.” 

College third-year Miles Harriss-Bauer performed for the first time on Saturday night. He explained that he appreciated the comedic community that Shit Pit inspires. 

“My friend told me about it and I was inspired to try my hand at stand up,” he wrote in an email to the Review. “I like the number of passionate aspiring comedians [who] foster a culture where I feel motivated to create work. Shit Pit is a prime example of just that. I think the small, insular nature of the campus makes it scarier to perform a terrible performance ; it stays with you. Comedy as a medium asks a great amount of vulnerability from its writer [or] performer.”

When Gabi Shiner and Brian Weaver, both OC ’19, and College fourth-year PJ McCormick organized Shit Pit last year, it was a smaller community. 

“There have been valid claims that it was possibly too exclusive and inaccessible,” said McCormick. “One reading of it would be exclusive and inaccessible to large groups of people. The other way to look at it would be that, at the time, it was envisioned as a place where people would go to workshop material with other people who were interested in comedy as opposed to [a place where] people would really perform.” 

McCormick, Shiner, and Weaver decided to advertise Shit Pit events to Facebook instead of using an email Listserv — their first step toward making the group more accessible. 

“Clare [Zucker] and Juli [Freedman] have been expanding what we were trying to do last year … and just making it a campus-wide event, which is phenomenal,” said McCormick. 

Zucker told the Review that the event went smoothly, though she wished there had been more performers. 

“It was less than an hour,” she said. “Juli and I were trying to make up for time [as hosts] by telling more jokes. … We’re still trying to advertise better.” 

Although there were few participants this year, Shit Pit is an Oberlin legacy that has proven a great outlet for aspiring comedians. 

Gabi Shiner, OC ‘19, explained that her Shit Pit connections helped her in her post-grad experience in the New York comedy world. 

“In general, the Oberlin comedy scene is a wonderful place to gain support in finding your voice,” said Shiner. “For me, this support has extended beyond my time at Oberlin– the founders of Shit Pit, Sophie Zucker and Maya Sharma, are New York comedians who have really helped me start to find my footing in the comedy world.”